The Coming Blueberry Revolution

The birds in my yard are pissed, and it’s about the blueberries.

Actually, the only thing I know for sure about the birds is that if they could, they’d eat all the blueberries off my plants and I’d never get more than one or two. I know this to be true because they did it last year. This year, I got a couple of rolls of plastic “chicken wire” and pretty much imprisoned them—the bushes, that is, not the birds. And I may have gotten as much as two quarts from my five or six bushes.

The weirdness comes in when I get the creepy feeling that the birds are watching, and taking notes. This happens when I unwire the pieces of chicken wire to pick whatever is left of the ripe blueberries.

What they are saying about me is chillingly Orwellian, frankly. They want to know why I get all the berries. Why I don’t share. Why I am cruelly letting them starve. Letting their little chicks go hungry.

You are not starving, you can eat all the insects you want, and I don’t want to share, I tell them—I don’t actually tell them, this happens entirely in my head—and besides, if I “shared,” you all would eat them all, which is what you did last year, and then pooped purple poop on my car. Which is what you did last year. And don’t give me that proletariat crap.

They do not like this in any way. I am “The Man” and I am controlling not only the means of production but also the product itself, and the sad little birds go hungry. I am like the bad farmer in Animal Farm. They will rise up against me and take over. This is complete bullshit, I say to them in this semi-sane conversation we are having in my head. My yard is my yard, and these are my blueberry bushes. I planted them, I take care of them, and you can fly off somewhere and find a rolling doughnut.

Their opinion is that I’m a bad, bad man. Yes, I say to them, I am a very bad man and I will put you in a pie if I catch you in my blueberries. Of course, I did, before I hardened the fortress around the blueberries, occasionally one and sometimes two would get inside. I’d be sitting at my kitchen table eating lunch or reading the paper or talking to my son, and there would be a kerfuffle outside in the blueberry fortress, with birds


—and, one time, a rabbit, too—batting around trying to eat my blueberries. The rabbit was just hiding out. I have no idea what it was doing.

I would go outside and emphasize, in a loud voice, that I was a bad, bad man and I would put them in a pie if I caught them. Then I would open up one end of the blueberry fortress to let them out, and go to the other end and continue to emphasize that I was very much like the farmer in Peter Rabbit, and I would put them in a pie. What I was really ding, of course, was chasing them out. But these incursions took their toll. All of that batting around caused a lot of “crop damage.”

But then I cut some stakes and hammered them in the ground around the edges of the blueberry fortress and, at least to my knowledge, that prevented them from continuing their depredations. It didn’t stop them from landing on top of plastic chicken wire and pecking holes in the blueberries they can reach with their sharp little beaks.

Now, the blueberries are almost gone, and the blackberries are ripening, but I’m not guarding them so zealously because I’m thinking that there are so many wild blackberries around Virginia there’s plenty of them to go around.

Even if they are conspiring against me, I have a deep admiration for their ability to survive. This past week, my power was out for three full days, and plus it was about 100° each day. I was pretty much very pissed off and, in a very literal sense, hot and bothered. Meanwhile, the birds just went on as usual, surviving the storm and going on with business as usual.




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About Steve, i.e., him

Stephen Stark is an award-winning novelist and bestselling ghostwriter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Poets & Writers and in many other journals. He has been a fellow and taught at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and won an NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction. His novel, Second Son, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1992, and a New and Noteworthy Paperback of 1994.

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